Tanzania is like many other African countries and faces a severe shortage of healthcare workers. This shortage, coupled with the rising rates of HIV/AIDS poses serious consequences to the health of the people in the region. Tanzania’s shortfall on medical personnel has become so serious that they are now trailing other developing countries in the area of medical care and health.
One possible solution to help with this problem is the use of telemedicine. Telemedicine is the practice of capturing images and information of complex medical conditions and then sending it to specialists around the globe using a database called the iPath platform. This would allow the few medical personnel in Tanzania the ability to leverage the diagnosis power of many practitioners around the world and to increase the treatments that could be provided in HIV ravaged Tanzania.
Cell phone diagnosis started in the field of dermatology or skin disorders. Medical personnel began to apply this diagnosis tool in rural Tanzania. In Tanzania many people reside in rural areas where access to health care is unavailable. Health care expertise and resources are found in the bigger cities and therefore, a lack of up to date information and training is found in the rural areas. Telemedicine has come to the rescue of many patients who could not be diagnosed before the use of the cell phones by medical personnel.
The local Church owns 20 hospitals, five paramedical institutions, over 160 dispensaries and health centers, providing for about 15% of the national healthcare in Tanzania. The goal of the program is to have a network of 43 facilities participating in the telemedicine program. Training programs are underway to equip doctors in the use of the ipath database, the digital camera and i-teach for distance learning.
The main challenge is the integration of telemedicine into the current practices of the rural providers, the facilities, billing system and certification and accreditation of workers and facilities. Training will be accomplished with the i-teach application bringing the Tanzanian healthcare worker into this new and exciting method of healthcare treatments. Telemedicine has come to Tanzania and the rescue of many patients who might not be diagnosed otherwise without the usage of cell phones by medical personnel.